Wednesday, 9 March 2016


The CBC, among others, has reported that “The Trudeau government has promised to get Canada back into the peacekeeping business, but a new report from two independent think tanks says the military is ill-prepared for the task”. They go on to report that the study comes to us from the Rideau Institute and the Centre for Policy Alternatives.

It would be easy to be so astonished with the inconsistencies in the previous statement that one could completely miss the point of the story.

Even after getting by the oxymoron involved in referring to the Rideau Institute and the Center for Policy Alternatives as two separate bodies, one is dumbstruck by the suggestion that they constitute an “independent” think tank.

Of course this may all depend on how one defines “independent’. It does not seem to conform to the normal dictionary definitions, which include:

(1) not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself:
(2 )an independent thinker.
(3) not subject to an other's authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free:
an independent businessman.
 (4) not influenced by the thought or action of others:
independent research.
 (5) not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.
 (6) not relying on another or others for aid or support.

However, a close examination of the paper itself helps to re-assure the uniformed as it clearly states, “The CCPA is an independent policy research organ­ization. This report has been subjected to peer re­view and meets the research standards of the Centre.” And to be fair, the Rideau Institute and the Centre for Policy Alternatives and their publications may well meet the standard contained in the alternative definition of independent; “expressive of a spirit of independence; self-confident; unconstrained”.

The point of the story, which should not be missed, is a report entitled Unprepared for Peace? The Decline of Canadian Peacekeeping Training (and What to Do About It) A.Walter Dorn and Joshua Libben The authors believe that for the last decade the Canadian army has specialized in counter-insurgency warfare, because of the combat mission in Kandahar, and neglected the specialized skills that they feel are necessary for successful peacekeeping.

They make the point that: "Particularly important is learning effective co-operation with the non-military components of modern peacekeeping operations, including police, civil affairs personnel and humanitarians, as well as UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the local actors engaged in building a viable peace: "

The study recommends the reinstatement and updating of the many training programmes and exercises that have been cut, as well as the introduction of new training activities to reflect the “increasing complexity of modern peace operations.”

The authors refer to the belief that general combat Training is sufficient to prepare troops for peacekeeping deployments as a myth. They argue that, “If the idea that peacekeeping is a low-intensity, “easy” deployment of armed forces is false; it is also untrue that soldiers trained for combat operations are sufficiently trained to be peacekeepers. The complex environment faced by UN peacekeepers means that the old notion that the best way to train a peacekeeper is to train a general-purpose, combat-capable soldier is no longer appropriate, if it ever was. While combat training remains essential for UN soldiers, much additional and specialized training is required. In Canada, the last fifteen years have seen a particular focus on training for NATO-style international interventions, given the CAF’s high-profile role in Afghanistan. However, modern peacekeeping missions involve fundamentally different dynamics facing personnel deployed on the ground, where there is greater emphasis on negotiation and mediation, and greater restrictions on the use of force”.

The authors appear to be unaware of the reality that modern military organizations, like the Canadian Armed Forces, are fully conversant with the theory of ‘the three block war”. The idea that a conflict may involve distributing aid on one block, fighting terrorists on the next and conducting full scale military action against a near peer enemy on the third is exactly what they trained for and executed in Afghanistan.

The Forces also understand that the key to operating in all three conditions simultaneously is leadership training at all levels, with low-level unit leaders given the ability to take major decisions and undertake independent actions. The Canadian force are well acquainted with advantages gained in all situations by this ‘devolved’ leadership and train accordingly.

The notion that the Canadian Forces should place “greater emphasis on negotiation and mediation, and greater restrictions on the use of force” is, based on the historical successes of the ‘muscular’ nature of Canadian missions, a mistake. One of the reasons for the success of Canadian troops on ‘peace keeping’ missions is that, to quote Quinn Dyer, “Canadians always shoot back”.

The first thing that typically happens when peace-keepers take up new posts along a ‘demarcation’ line is that someone shoots at them. It’s nothing personal; if anything it’s a traditional welcome for the new guys by the local thugs and their attempt to find out the caliber of the troops they are now dealing with. Survivors among those who visit these greetings on Canadian troops are amazed to discover just how much weaponry Canadian Forces feel is appropriate for peace keeping and surprised to find out that, unlike local “freedom fighters” Canadian soldiers apparently don’t have to pay for each bullet out of there own pockets.

In the case of persistent trouble makers, habitual bomb makers, pot shot artists and the like, the practice is to have intelligence identify the individual and then have battalion snipers deal with them on a personal level.

Another common custom in these situations is for local dignitaries and elders (never to be referred to as warlords) to be invited over for tea and firepower demonstrations. Again, even those hardened by years of simmering warfare can be surprised by the kinds of heavy weapons, (TOW missiles, really?) Canadians feel it is necessary to bring with them, ‘just in case’.

It would be a mistake for Canada, and Canadians, to think they can impose their will on others without making it clear that they are willing to fight to achieve their goals, even goals that include peace keeping.

This study indicates that Canada is currently far behind other nations in its readiness to support the United Nations and train for modern peacekeeping.

Here we come to the one of the real points of the study. The peace keeping industry, like any other, believes that it must constantly grow or else it will die. Unlike most other business models there is not a lot of income to be derived from private enterprise so alternative sources must be found.

The major sources of funding are academia and the government. Of these government is can be the most beneficial.

One source of income for many years was the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Training Centre. The centre was established in 1994 using facilities made available by the closure of CFB Cornwallis. Its mandate was to support Canada's contribution to international peace and security. At its peak the center supported an administrative staff of up to 200 ‘facilitators’ and experts with another 17 staff in Ottawa. After being moved to Ottawa, in 2008, the center lost government support. In June 2011, the centre announced it would be closing its Cornwallis offices as a cost-saving measure. At that time, the Cornwallis office had a staff of 12.The centre lost its annual core funding of $4 million from the federal government in 2012.

Obviously the provision of suitable training for peace keeping can only be provided by the right sort of people. They must be people who understand that “modern peacekeeping missions involve fundamentally different dynamics facing personnel deployed on the ground, where there is greater emphasis on negotiation and mediation, and greater restrictions on the use of force”

Needless to say it is important to insure that those who receive monies from the Department of National Defence, or any department of government, are not tainted by the experience. Fortunately experience teaches us that members of the appropriately progressive organizations can not be influenced, or even be accused of being influenced, by the source of their income.

It stands to reason that these are the people who should organize and run the training so it is not a coincidence that one of the recommendations of the report is that Canada move immediately to develop a new peace operations training centre, noting that “the loss of the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre was a devastating setback to Canadian preparedness 

Sarcasm aside, there is another point to this study. The Rideau Institute makes clear in its mission statement that” Our mission is to help restore Canada to its former peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding role in the world, through creative and innovative multilateralism, strengthening the UN and building international law.’

What is not so clear is that the Institute, like the Centre for Policy Alternatives, seeks to achieve its goals by influencing the media and policy makers in an attempt to reshape the Canadian Armed Forces.

While many would assume that spending all that money on Defence is to give Canadians the widest possible number of options, it is the goal of the writers of this report and their patrons to limit the options available to the Government of Canada.

By shaping the size, composition, equipment and training of our Armed Forces they hope to give us an organization that is only capable of the kinds of missions that they feel Canada should undertake.

This is a policy based on hope. Hope that others feel the same way do. Hope that the events will unfold the way we want them to. Hope that ‘full coverage’ insurance is not really necessary. As much as we would prefer it otherwise, experience teaches that these are false hopes and that purposely limiting our military options is bad policy.

Canadian military ill-prepared for modern peacekeeping: report

 Unprepared for Peace? The Decline of Canadian Peacekeeping Training
(and What to Do About It) A. Walter Dorn and Joshua Libben

Pearson Centre

The Rideau Institute

Centre for Policy Alternatives